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Park Rapids to host ACEs Summit in 2019

An Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Summit will be held Wednesday, Feb. 13 at the Park Rapids Area High School.

An ACTION Park Rapids Area committee is coordinating the first-ever community event.

ACEs "are stressful or traumatic events that are strongly related to the development and prevalence of a wide range of health problems throughout a person's lifespan, including those associated with substance misuse and violence. What we're trying to do is bring education and awareness around this," explained Angie Graham, grant coordinator for the Hubbard in Prevention Coalition (HIP). She spoke at an ACTION Park Rapids work session on Nov. 1.

"Our group has been working diligently since June to bring this ACEs Summit. We are so very excited," Graham said.

Seven organizations — HIP, Park Rapids School District's Alternative Learning Center (ALC), Kinship of Park Rapids Area, A Better Connection, Heartland Wellness and Activity Connection, and CHI St. Joseph Health's violence prevention and FATHER Project — are collaborating to help Park Rapids become a trauma-informed community.

The day-long ACEs Summit will include presentations from national, regional and local experts.

Keynote speaker is Jim Sporleder, who retired in 2014 as principal of Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, Wash. Under Sporleder's leadership, Lincoln High School became a trauma-informed school, gaining national attention and spearheading a nationwide movement due to a dramatic drop in school suspensions, increased graduation rates and the number of students going on to post-secondary education. These dramatic changes were captured in the "Paper Tigers" and its sequel "Resilience." Both documentaries are by filmmaker James Redford.

Sixth District Judge Shaun Floerke (St. Louis County) is scheduled to speak about ACEs and their impact within the judicial system.

Dr. Heather Bell from CHI St. Gabriel's in Little Falls will discuss both her medical and personal experiences with ACEs.

Two guest speakers from Menomonie, Wis. will share that community's efforts to become trauma-informed. Wendell Waukau is superintendent of the Menominee Indian School District.

Jerry Waukau is administrator of the Menominee Tribal Clinic.

A light supper and panel discussion are also planned for the February summit.

ALC coordinator Lisa Coborn noted that the ACTION Park Rapids committee is bringing community agencies together — hospital, courts, schools, clinic, business leaders, etc. — on Nov. 14 from 1 to 3 p.m. at Calvary Lutheran Church to discuss what obstacles they are facing.

"We are recognizing very quickly from all the research we are doing that the more we can link services and work together, the better and more successful we're going to be in this endeavor," she said. "Our focus is to bring these agencies together and do just that."

ACEs impact everyone, Coborn emphasized. "As we know, everything is linked. Our overall health is linked to how well we perform in our jobs, how we function in our family settings."

A trauma-informed community works together "because if we can tackle some of the tough situations we're seeing with people in our community and start looking at them with a different lens, we can start to fix some of these things," she said. "The communities who are doing this are seeing just phenomenal results," such as lower high school dropout rates, fewer teen pregnancies, decreased violence and greater workforce stability/employment.

Participation and passion is growing for the local initiative, Coborn said, "because we're starting to learn so much how effective it is. We want that for our community. We want healthy families. I want to see healthy kids at the school. We all want that, and we all benefit from that in every way."

The ACTION Park Rapids committee seeks funding for the summit. "This is a pretty big endeavor, so we're still looking for grants or funding sources," Graham said.

They were awarded a $4,000 Park Rapids Community Fund Grant. Grant applications have been submitted to several foundations as well.

The committee also launched a new website: www.acesmn.com.

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